10/07/2011 05:47 pm ET | Updated Nov 28, 2011

Iowa Fall Foliage: A MapQuest Guide

Iowa fall foliage features brilliant hues and spectacular scenery. The changing colors of leaves in autumn is one of nature’s most beloved rites of passage -- and makes for one of the most popular and inexpensive getaways for families. As part of LeafQuest -- a MapQuest series helping leaf peepers across North America find easy and rewarding destinations -- here are three recommended spots for viewing Iowa fall foliage. — Staff

Ledges State Park

Oak, hickory, basswood and maple line the slopes of Ledges State Park. “This blend of northern and southern forest types," brags the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, "provides spectacular autumn leaf colors.” If that’s not enough for visitors searching for a stunning display of autumn leaves, then they’ll be pleased to find the Iowa Arboretum on the outskirts of the park. Visitors can choose to bask in the autumnal glow of maples, oak, hickory and elm trees with leisure walks through the grounds, brisk hikes or bracing bike rides.

1515 P Ave., Madrid, IA 50156 | Get Directions

Effigy Mounds National Monument

In addition to the oak-hickory forest filled with white ash, sugar maple, hackberry and honey locust trees that provide the visual firepower, visitors to the Effigy Mounds National Monument will also get an emotional charge from the more than 200 ceremonial mounds that were a "regional cultural phenomenon" of the 12 Native American tribes from the area. The mounds in this park are most often in the shape of animals, such as bears, birds, panthers and turtles.

Effigy Mounds National Monument, 151 Highway 76, Harpers Ferry, IA 52146 | Get Directions

Loess Hills Scenic Byway

Loess Hills Scenic Byway weaves thorough more than 200 miles of loess, or sediment windblown into dunes during the last ice age. The enormous area of the Loess Hills comprises more than 640,000 acres -- and more than 1,500 archeological sites that capture the culture of pre-Columbian cultures. On the journey, leaf lovers should slow down to a cruise to catch glimpses of the prairie grasses turning golden and the burr oak, sumac and dogwood trees as they begin to change from green to vibrant warm hues in the autumn. Start your quest at the Loess Hills Visitors Center and Gift Shop in Moorhead.

119 Oak St., Moorhead, IA 51558-3029 | Get Directions

Autumn in Iowa -- scenes from around Des Moines.

Did we miss an Iowa fall-foliage spot? Tell us about it in the comments section below.

Want other great fall-foliage destinations? Check out more LeafQuest.

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